Victor Kumin was born on August 2, 1921 in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was the third child of Samuel Kumin and Clara Montwid, who had both come to the United States from Latvia as young children with their families.
After studying Chemistry and graduating from Harvard in 1943, Kumin worked for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Laboratory, researching underwater explosions. In 1944, he entered the U.S. Army.
In September of 1944, he was taken from basic training in Alabama and dispatched to Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project. He was assigned to the Special Engineer Detachment (SED). He was then promoted to Technical Sergeant. After the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kumin refused to continue his work. Ultimately, he was honorably discharged.
During Army furlough in April of 1945, he met Maxine Winokur. The couple got married in 1946, and went on to have three children.
Maxine, a well-known poet and author, won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and later became poet laureate of the United States. She published their courtship letters in “Love in Wartime," published in The American Scholar in 2012.
Later in life Kumin worked as a chemical engineer. He worked for the Kendall Company in Walpole, MA, and then for Charles T. Main Associates in Boston. In the 1960s and 1970s, Victor and Maxine were active in local politics, and the civil rights and anti-war movements in Boston. They were also members of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union for many years. Victor passed away on December 23, 2016 at the age of 95.
Click here to listen to an NHPR interview with Victor Kumin.